We thought it couldn’t get worse
We are witnessing atrocities in our countries and seeing images we can never erase. A child and her father face down, drowned in a river they risked their lives crossing in hope of greater safety, the possibility of a better life than in a violence and poverty stricken nation. The voice of our own government officials stating that children do not have a right to soap and those children found starving, unconscionably neglected. Most recently, a report by the Office of the Inspector General, our own government agency, criticizing this administration for the terrible conditions and the prolonged detention of migrants.
What we have not heard could be much worse. HIP has received reports of U.S. and Mexican government agents denying unaccompanied minors entry into the US, holding them in government custody or deporting them back to their countries of origin—regardless of their intent to seek asylum or reunite with family members in the U.S.
New patterns of migration, notably the increased tendency to travel in groups, are on track to become the “new normal” of migration flow. The number of refugees admitted in 2018 was the lowest level since Congress created the current refugee program in 1980. The fate of “Dreamers,” who received protections through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), continues to be precarious.
How Did We Get Here?
In June 2018, the Trump Administration made the decision to stop granting asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, and summer 2018 saw an uproar over the “zero tolerance” policy that separated families upon arrival at the border. While the policy has officially ended, the saga is far from over: those who have been reunited still face uncertainty over their fates as well as lasting effects of trauma, while some children are still separated and may never be returned to their parents, deported without them. In January 2019, DHS quietly rolled out new “Migrant Protection Protocols,” which force some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed, effectively preventing access to legal aid or social services largely necessary to navigate the U.S. asylum system. This so called “Remain in Mexico” agreement between the U.S. and Mexico has already and will continue to increase the need for adequate shelter and mental health services for asylum seekers in Mexico. Despite several court victories, the legal future of the U.S. asylum system and asylum-seekers remains uncertain. The U.S. system remains overloaded, with 800,000 cases pending in immigration court, each of which takes 700 days on average to process.
These announcements have been further compounded by recent developments including threats to declare a National Emergency or otherwise “seal off” the U.S.-Mexico border, cutting off U.S. federal aid to Central America and the U.S. threat of escalating tariffs of Mexican goods, both countries announced in June 2019 that they would take steps to “address” immigrants and asylum seekers traveling to the U.S. Following through on this promise, Mexico has deployed 6,000 members of its National Guard to the Mexico-Guatemala border to physically stop the flow of asylum seekers, which could force migrants to take new and even more dangerous paths to try and travel North.
What We See on the Mexican Side
Mexico is witnessing renewed flows of asylum-seekers—including many women and children—mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, which are facing endemic levels of crime and violence. New and growing instability in Venezuela has additionally prompted an unprecedented number of Venezuelans to seek refuge abroad, creating new migration flows. Many are vulnerable women, or children either unaccompanied or separated from their families. This has been made even more evident through the closely watched increase in migrant “caravans” over the past year—as of November 2018, an estimated 6,000 individuals from these groups of asylum-seeking migrants, traveling in larger groups from Central America for their own safety, had arrived in Tijuana. The sudden resignation of the head of the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Migration Institute, INM) and replacement by Mexico’s prisons director on June 14, 2019, has further created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear around the future of migrant rights and migration policy in Mexico.
Already weak regional asylum systems are breaking down under this increased strain; for example, Mexico’s 2019 federal budget allocates significantly less money than previous years for its migration department. In February 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that the government was eliminating federal funding for all CSOs—which may potentially devastate the budgets of many organizations currently providing even limited services. The situation is further complicated by an increasing number of deportations in the region, which has created new challenges for nonprofits to address.
Mexico’s asylum system lacks capacity to process the rapidly increasing number of pending asylum applications and subjects asylum applicants to prolonged detention or otherwise limited mobility during the adjudication process. Many migrants in transit in Mexico are the victims of crimes—including kidnappings, homicides, sexual assault, robbery, and extortion—perpetrated by organized criminal groups, corrupt migration authorities, and the police who are charged with protecting them. This situation is set to escalate given the Mexican government’s current negotiations with the U.S. federal government.
The U.S. has also been attempting to negotiate a Third Safe Country Agreement with Mexico, as well as Guatemala, which would require migrants traveling through these countries to first apply for asylum there before applying in the U.S.
Growing threats to migrants and asylum seekers span the full migrant corridor, and require systemic solutions that examine root causes of migration flows, the lack of basic needs on the ground, and ongoing systems failures of migration policy and state protections.
Promoting immigrant rights is core to HIP’s DNA, and over the past 35 years, many of our programs have prioritized the needs of migrants and lifted up advocacy around policies that affect their lives. Over the last 2 years in response to attacks on migrant communities across the region, HIP has significantly expanded our programming, unrolling a transnational rapid regranting response to meet urgent emergency needs. At the same time HIP has been actively laying the groundwork for a long-term transnational strategy which addresses the root causes of forced migration, continues to meet emergency need, and corrects systems failures impacting immigrant communities. This includes expanding our strategic grant-making and nonprofit capacity building throughout the Americas; ramping up our support of advocacy and network building; continuing to educate, organize and align funders on this issue; and working for narrative change to reframe the immigrant story within philanthropy and among the public.
What You Can Do
Your support is critical to organizations directly serving the children, families, and individuals who have been severely impacted by damaging immigration policies.
Donate today to help the most vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers receive immediate and long-term support from organizations like those we’ve listed below.
What Funders Can Do
Come together to support non- profits to transforming the reality – from one of violence, insecurity to one of safety and dignity – for migrants at three important migration moments in the region:
- Decision to Migrate | We encourage funders to examine root causes forcing individuals to leave their homes and leaving them without a choice but to migrate. The vast majority of migration and forced internal displacement in the region is not driven by the “pull” of the American dream, or the perceived ease of success elsewhere, but rather the unavoidable, last-resort “push” of the failure of government protections and services, corrupt power systems, and intransigent violence, climate change and natural disasters, and generally a lack of opportunities. This broad systems failure is manifested in widespread regional poverty and violence. Nearly 30% of the population of El Salvador and just under 60% in Guatemala live in poverty; this proportion rises to over 64% in Honduras. Furthermore, the Northern Triangle countries are further wracked by violence at a level which, according to a 2015 survey of migrants and refugees in Mexico by Médecins Sans Frontières, is “not unlike that of […] war.” For example, these countries rank among the highest in the world for rates of femicides: 1st in El Salvador, 3rd in Guatemala, and 7th in Honduras. Funding need to:
- Fight impunity and corruption by strengthening government accountability.
- Strengthen the education and employability of youth in at-risk communities.
- Improve employment and livelihoods in Central America and Mexico.
- Migration | Funders can provide key support to meet emergency needs and protecting human dignity for migrants while in transit. Stricter borders, punitive policies and practices, and a stigmatization of migrants, including those who ultimately return to their nations of origin, create increased dangers and harsher conditions for migrants. Migrants travel in group exodus for security and elevated visibility as a way to protect individuals from targeted violence and in search of humanitarian relief. Funding need to:
- Supporting orgs for improved sustainability, effectiveness, and overall improved capacity to respond to protractive and increased demand for services to move migrants beyond emergency mode
- Strengthening the service-provider network through coordination, communications, and improved data and resource sharing
- Increasing civic engagement and strengthening government migrant-assistance infrastructure.
- Fortifying rights and protections through cross-sector advocacy and litigation
- Integration | Together we strive to protect the basic rights of migrants and asylum seekers. From increasingly rapid dilution of the asylum system to dwindling protection of the right to work and to an education, migrants continue to face significant challenges and barriers to thrive even once they arrive at their intended destination. The lack of migrant protections described above historically has been fed by chronic, entrenched, and embedded xenophobic and racist attitudes and systems, as well as long-standing failures in the region’s immigration systems. This is further compounded by the use of immigrants as a wedge issue to continue to cultivate and fester hostility toward people of color, indigenous, queer and trans people, poor families, and those caught in the criminal justice system, particularly in destination countries such as the United States and Mexico. Since the same false narratives and broken power structures that suppress migrants rights throughout the region also limit the rights and access of people of color and targeted minorities more broadly, HIP sees its work advancing migrants rights issues as intrinsically part of our broader mission of creating systems change to advance racial equity for the Latinx community. Funding need to:
- Promoting resettlement and a labor mobility landscape
- Destigmatizing migrants through public awareness programs that showcase the contributions of migrants, refugees and other displaced people
- Supporting migrants arriving in their final points of destination in the U.S. or Mexico.
- Improving social services for returnees in Mexico and Central America
Who is HIP Supporting
Here is our list of grantee partners, including HIP-CAMMINA and Family Unity Fund grantees located in Central America, Mexico, and the United States.
- #VenezuelansMovingFwd Crowdfunding Campaign – Launching December 1, 2019! Join HIP in mobilizing resources for organizations across the Americas working to support Venezuelan migrants & refugees.
- Southern Mexico Border Delegation, December 4 – 6, 2019 – Our visit to the border seeks to educate our sector on the reality facing women, LGBTQI and other vulnerable groups as they attempt to move north.
- TFN 2020 Annual Conference, March 16 – 18, 2020 – HIP will be hosting a panel on migration, gender, and climate-forced displacement and co-hosting a border leaning tour on migration and sustainability with International Community Foundation. Details coming soon!
- HIP Leadership Conference, June 1 – 3, 2020 – Save the date! HIP’s annual conference will be held in Los Angeles, California in June 2020.
Contact Amalia Brindis Delgado at amalia at hiponline.org